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WNFC Week 1 Players of the Week Recap

By Derek Fleming

The long-anticipated return of the Women’s National Football Conference finally came to pass on April 1 and a group of players immediately made it clear they were no April Fools on the field. From a talented pool of players nominated by coaches, the League selected three Players of the Week. This season, POTW selections will take a new format that will include an offensive player, a defensive player, and a trench player to ensure that some of the players who don’t always get the credit they deserve are recognized for outstanding performances that create opportunities for their team to claim victory.

The Offensive Player of the Week for Week 1 hails from the Washington Prodigy who faced off against the Philly Phantomz on opening day. Running back Jasmine Ballard set the tone of the game early, punishing defenses with an explosive running style that saw her earn the team’s first touchdown of the young season. Ballard, whose nickname is “Popeye,” got everyone’s attention on a 95-yard touchdown run following a deep punt for the longest score in Prodigy history. Ballard's coaches said that her elusive running style was key to the victory and the reason she deserves POTW recognition.

“The moment that was special to me was walking onto the field and seeing my family and friends holding up posters and yelling “POPEYE,” Ballard said tot he WNFC Newsroom. “Even when it started to rain, they were still there. Every time I touched the ball, knowing they were out there motivated me to run and pus a little harder.”

The Florida Avengers drew a tough match against the Kansas City Glory for Week 1 and

few things went right for the team as they lost 40-0. Proving the POTW honors are not about wins and losses, but about the effort that a player puts on the field despite the score, we selected strong safety Angie Patton from the Avengers as our Defensive Player of the Week. Patton is normally a linebacker, but recently made the transition to coverage where her ball hawking skills were on display tot he tune of two pass break-ups. Even more impressive was the disruptive nature of her downfield attacks, picking up two tackles for loss and forcing three fumbles, one of which she recovered. Despite the lop-sided outcome, Patton played “fast and aggressive from the opening kickoff,” according to her coaches. “She played the game the way it’s meant to be played,” said head coach Todd Jones.

“The first game was really just to prove a point,” Patton said. She missed time and opportunities last season as she dealt with an injury. Returning to the field came with the usual jitters, but Patton said she overcame the early emotions and attacked the backfield. Patton’s Week 1 performance went on to inspire her teammates in Week 2. “From that first game, we were motivated and inspired,” Patton said. “If I can do that every week and every game and we all get stronger, then that’s what I am going to do.”

The trenches are were most football games are won and lost, but the attention tends to shift to the quarterbacks and linebackers who benefit from execution at the point of attack. Stats are more difficult to come by for the players who operate on the line, but their contributions can be seen in every aspect of the game. For Week 1, Brittany O’Connor showed what it takes to make an impact at the line. Facing off against one of the biggest rivals in the Seattle Majestics, O’Connor led the Oregon Ravens defensive from the line, amassing five total tackles, including three tackles-for-loss and recording her first sack of the season.

“If you’ve seen Brittany ball, you know she leaves it all in the trenches,” O’Connor’s coaching staff said in nominating her for POTW honors. “Brittany is an offensive disruptor who wants all the smoke. We think she is the epitome of Trench Player of the Week.”

Though the Ravens would go on to lose against Seattle, O’Connor’s efforts were more than enough to get the attention of the selection committee and earn the first-ever Trench Player of the Week.


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